In Focus: Lioness Lauren ready to be World Cup star
Lauren James has signed a new contract with Chelsea after a breakthrough season with the Blues.
The tricky winger, 21, excelled in Emma Hayes' double-winning side and has now extended her stay in West London until 2027.
James' fearless displays both for the Women's Super League champions and England this season have also seen her named in Sarina Wiegman's squad for the World Cup.
Ahead of the tournament in Australia and New Zealand which starts on July 20, we shine the spotlight on one of the most exciting footballers in Europe.
On signing her new deal, James said: "It's an amazing feeling to extend my stay at the club I love and where I feel most at home.
"I'm looking forward to the future and I want to reach my full potential."
James is certainly well on her way to delivering on her promise, having been one of the WSL's top performers this term.
She notched five times in 18 appearances, while on the European stage, she struck twice on the Blues' run to the semi-finals.
England colleague Lucy Bronze said of James' form: "She's a player that everyone's talking about this season. She's finally had the chance to show off her talent.
"Not only is she technically gifted, but she's incredibly strong too. Even if teams have worked out how to play against her, that doesn't mean they can stop her."
James missed out on a spot in Wiegman's Euro 2022 squad but was handed her international debut in a World Cup qualifier against Austria last September.
She now has 10 caps to her name and played 74 minutes in the Lionesses victory over Brazil in the 2023 Finalissima.
The ex-Manchester United forward shone during February's Arnold Clark Cup, too.
Sublime showings against South Korea, Italy and Belgium earned her the Player of the Tournament award as England scooped the trophy.
A starting berth at the World Cup now beckons for the youngster, whose direct nature adds an extra attacking dimension to the European champions — alongside the likes of Alessia Russo and Lauren Hemp.
Perhaps James' greatest asset is her ability to wreak havoc and inject creativity with her dribbling.
On her own unique characteristics, she said: "When I’m on the right I like to drift in, wherever it opens up.
"I like to wait for players to engage, and then at the last minute do what I'm good at. If they back off it gives you things to think about. I'm an instinctive player."
Brother Reece believes his sister's technical ability is superior to that of some of his peers in the English top flight.
The Chelsea right-back said last November: "I believe she is the best women's footballer in the world and will be for the next 10-15 years, without doubt. She's technically better than some Premier League players."
There is no doubting that the absence of injured Beth Mead from the World Cup is a blow to England, especially after her displays at Euro 2022 — where she finished as joint-top scorer with six goals.
But James' meteoric rise over the past 12 months means the Arsenal star's serious knee injury will likely not be as devastating as it could have been for the Lionesses.
The Chelsea ace has become used to playing under enormous pressure at club level, too, so the bright lights of a major international tournament should not faze her one bit.